It’s National School Choice Week, and one Bend charter school is using it as an opportunity to showcase its curriculum.
Rimrock Expeditionary Alternative Learning Middle School -- commonly known as "REALMS" -- was established in 2001, and there are 144 students combined in grades 6-8.
The school places an emphasis on active learning through a project-based curriculum. A curriculum that’s applicable to students lives.
"Teachers really build curriculum around relevant real-world issues,” said REALMS Director Roger White. “That helps kids understand, 'Oh, I get why I need to study this, because it makes a difference in my community.'"
With an average of 23 to 26 kids per class, students are able to really get to know each other. That's how seventh-grader Parker Palubeski transitioned so quickly.
"Well it's really easy to make friends here because we're such a compact community,” Palubeski said. “Everybody knows each other, and we're all friends here."
REALMS shares most of the common core standards as traditional public schools, though it encourages students to learn outside the classroom as well.
"They do academic work in the classroom, and then they extend that work through community-based field work," White said.
For example, some of the seventh-graders have been working on a soil moisture project at Ryan Ranch Meadow along the Deschutes River.
"Instead of reading in a book this sort of thing and making stuff based on the made-up data, we actually get real data we can analyze and talk about," said Luka Perle, a seventh-grader at REALMS.
White and the students agree that the teachers help make the school what it is.
"I just really like the learning environment,” said Lulu Mastrangelo, an eighth-grader at REALMS. “It feels like the teachers are really trying to make sure you learn it, understand it and are supporting you on it and not just lecturing you on it."
REALMS’ students also participate in elective programs every Friday with local nonprofit organizations like the Humane Society of Central Oregon.
White said, "REALMS is just a little unique in that we have this different focus on trying to get at that challenging academic curriculum, but get at it through this project-based, interdisciplinary way."
There's also open enrollment for the Bend-La Pine Schools on March 1 for the high schools, and April 10 for elementary and middle schools. On those days, students and parents can can choose any school in the district to attend.
To learn more about National School Choice Week, visit http://schoolchoiceweek.com/